Do you remember growing up in the seventies? Those of us in Eastern Maine watched Channel’s 2,5, and 7 with a little bit of PBS thrown in. And that, my friends, was it. Around 1980 in the town I grew up in Cable including HBO came to town. Of course only those families who lived in the ” town” got cable service, certainly those of us out in the country did not. Suddenly our friends in town had lots of company on the weekend. I can easily remember gathering at a friends house on Halloween weekend in 1980 and watching a marathon of scary movies on HBO. Later on in the eighties we all got VCR’s and, once we learned how to program them, advertisers soon had less power over us. In the mid eighties I was working on the night of the NCAA Championship. I remember coming home at eleven, having stayed away from all news coverage, and watched Syracuse and Indiana play on my own personal tape delay.
Fast forward thirty years, and here we are. Does anyone watch television at the scheduled times anymore? I know that in our house we never do. I myself wonder why advertisers even pay to promote their products on the networks. In our house the only commercials we watch are on fast forward.
It is certainly not a VCR anymore we are using fast forward on however. Tivo, DVR or whatever you use is a wonderful thing. The biggest issue we have these days of course is our devices filling up with too much programming as the Dish folks point out to us all too frequently in their new ad campaign.
As I write this my wife and I are watching a few episodes of Season Two of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. We do not get HBO anymore we just wait to catch up on DVD. Yesterday Netflix released Season One of a new series they are producing themselves, the Kevin Spacey starring series House of Cards. More and more we hear that many of us watch television in a whole new way. Binge viewing. If one wants to, this very weekend, they can watch all thirteen episodes of this show in just one or two days. According to my Twitter feed a not small amount of people are doing just that.
That seems a bit extreme for me. I draw the line at two or three episodes in one day. Look at you, my wife would say,Mr. Old School. Just a few years ago my work pals and I would have lunch each Monday and talk over each episode of The Sopranos. Now, just a few years later, if one wants to they can go on HBO Go, the networks own On Demand service, and watch all six seasons as fast they like.
For the most part anything we can do to dispense with commericals and watch television on our own timetable should be applauded. My wife, for example, is a big fan of all of the singing shows, with Tivo she can watch a two hour American Idol in a little over an hour. Life is busy, this is a blessing for all of us, not sitting through these commercials.
Still one more opportunity for a shared experience is fast becoming obsolete. How can we talk each Monday about the show of the moment if we all watch on a different schedule. This is one of the reasons that The Super Bowl or the NCAA Basketball Championship hold such importance. Besides being such popular sporting events they are perhaps one of the last vestiges of the shared experience that can bind us on any given day.
Where will we be in five years? No one can be sure. One thing we do know is that we will not be watching anything at the networks suggested time and, shared experience or not, my wife is glad of that.